CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — More healthcare and better healthcare. That’s the promise from a West Virginia medical school celebrating a big milestone this year.

The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg is marking the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1972. The school’s president has been traveling the state to mark the occasion and was in Charleston today speaking to the Rotary Club.

Perhaps the biggest mission at the School of Osteopathic Medicine is to put doctors in every county of the state, especially in rural areas.

“Our school has helped populate small towns with docs right in where they live. So, access to care is so critical. So that people can easily get to a physician, and get their illnesses diagnosed and then treated,” said Dr. James Nemitz, President, WV School of Osteopathic Medicine.

The school takes a very holistic approach to healthcare, according to President Nemitz who said, “Many of the illnesses that afflict West Virginians, you can do something about. And so we’re teaching people how to address their chronic illnesses, through lifestyle change. Teaching people how to eat better, how to grow food, how to cook food.”

The school has graduated thousands of Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine since 1972. It now has partnerships with West Virginia State University, Davis and Elkins College, and West Virginia Wesleyan, all in an effort to get more undergraduate students in the pipeline to medical school.

And it isn’t just having an effect on healthcare. It’s estimated that the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine and its graduates have an annual economic impact of $1 billion dollars in West Virginia.